Susan Evans, who serves as Director of the Smithsonian Food History Programs and was previously Marketing Manager of Magic Hat Brewing Company in Vermont, will provide a keynote speech at the 2017 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference.
We are very excited about this in part because Susan comes to the conference both from a traditional path (a brewery) and a non-traditional path (as someone involved with a beer history project at our national museum). We caught up with Susan to ask her a few questions.
You are the Director, Smithsonian Food History Programs, at the National Museum of American History. How did you get such a cool job and what does it entail?
My experiences working both in museums and in craft brewing have come together in this amazing role, where I get to work with our curators, researcher, scholars, and educators to use stories of food to connect audiences with American history. Food and drinks are a great way to make personal connections to broader stories of history. One example is our chocolate demonstration program where we take audiences through the process of making drinking chocolate in the Colonial era and then make connections to late 18th century global trade routes. Starting with chocolate makes it a lot easier to find a personal connection to historic stories of global trade routes!
We found you, of course, because the National Museum of American History posted a job opportunity for the role of Historian / Scholar of the American Brewing History Initiative. Why was this role created and what will this person do?
We are thrilled to launch the American Brewing History Initiative! Brewing and beer have been an important part of the American experience since before the nation’s founding and continue to shape industry and community life to present day. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is uniquely positioned to document the stories of American brewers and collect the material culture of the industry and brewing communities for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and the public. The new historian on the project will explore how beer and brewing connect to larger themes in American history, from agriculture to business, from culture to economics. The person will conduct research, both archival and oral histories, and document that as part of the Smithsonian’s collections. An important part of the role will be sharing that research with the public, through programs, presentations, and on social media too….so look out for more on beer history from the National Museum of American History in 2017.
The American Brewing History Initiative is already up and running, including a collection of historic documents and objects and programming related to the beer industry. How has the project and the events been received by the public?
People love learning about beer…and we’ve had a great response to this project so far. Our programs on brewing history have brought together pioneers in the craft brewing industry together with historians to talk about the impact of brewing on American history. And, no one turns down the opportunity to learn about history by tasting it through beer!
You yourself spent three years as Marketing Manager of Magic Hat Brewing Company in Vermont. Obviously that experience gave you a leg up on your current job. But do you miss working directly in the craft beer industry?
I had an incredible experience working at Magic Hat Brewing Company, and I continue to build on those experiences in my current role at the Smithsonian. In my time in the world of beer, I found that the craft brewing industry and community are a tremendously friendly, warm, and welcoming group. Collaboration is one of the core values of the industry, which makes it a great group to work with. Luckily, in my role at the Smithsonian, we have the opportunity through the American Brewing History Initiative to bring brewers into the museum and continue to work together.
As keynote of the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, have you thought at all yet about what topics you might address or messages you might impart to the audience?
I think breweries and museums have a lot to learn from each other about building relationships with their audiences. Beer bloggers and writers have been incredibly influential in creating a craft beer community. I’m looking forward to talking about my own experiences in both industries, sharing more about what we’re working on for the American Brewing History Initiative, and hearing from conference attendees about their work and where they think the brewing industry is headed.